Four out of five teachers say the focus on exams has become "disproportionate" to the focus on the overall wellbeing of their pupils, according to a major charity.
The Health Foundation has today published a report following a two-year inquiry into young people’s future health.
It also shows that 70 per cent of teachers and school staff say lack of funding is a challenge to providing mental health support.
And the charity is now calling on the government to overhaul policies across areas including housing, transport and education to secure the future health of young people aged 12-24.
Researchers found evidence of a rising pressure on academic performance in schools with “insufficient focus on real work experience and practical life skills”, and that this was a key factor affecting young people’s mental health and emotional wellbeing.
Pupils' mental health 'at risk'
But the charity also calls for reforms to the private rental housing sector and the ending of the postcode lottery in access to discounted and free transport for students and young people seeking employment.
Jo Bibby, director of health at the Health Foundation, said: "It is apparent that the arbitrary division of responsibilities between different sectors is letting young people down and jeopardising their long-term health. We must address these divisions and ensure there is a whole-government approach to drive us towards a healthy future.”
The report says:
- 90 per cent of school leaders have seen an increase in the number of students experiencing anxiety or stress over the past five years (as reported by Young Minds charity).
- 80 per cent of young people believe exam pressure has impacted on their mental health. This pressure is also reported to be having an impact on teachers, too.
- According to The Children’s Society, one in eight children (11.8 per cent) is also unhappy with school.
- 82 per cent of teachers say the focus on exams has become disproportionate to the focus on the overall wellbeing of their students.
- 70 per cent of schools staff say that a lack of funding – both within schools and for specialist services – is a challenge to providing mental health support.
The Health Foundation, along with The Children and Young People's Mental Health Coalition, and the Centre for Mental Health, is now calling for a review of the impact of the UK exam systems on young people’s wellbeing and mental health.
They want education inspectorates, including Ofsted, to look beyond attainment and overall performance, and instead assess schools on their efforts to promote “a whole-school approach”
They are also calling for
- Education providers to ensure that they equip young people with the essential skills they need to prepare them for the transition into adulthood; for example, money management or employability skills.
- Leaders in education to prioritise and promote the wellbeing of staff by having clear strategies in place.
- Local statutory bodies to work with education providers to plan and deliver preventative and early intervention emotional wellbeing services.
- Closer working together between young people’s mental health services and education providers.